When It Comes to Consent, There Are No Gray Areas

05/11/2016 08:41 am ET | Updated May 11, 2016
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And our laws should reflect that

Like many people, I was outraged when I heard about the Oklahoma court ruling that was recently in the news. Outraged and disgusted.

In case you missed it, a court in Oklahoma declared that it is not against state law to have oral sex with a person who is completely unconscious from intoxication. The case in question involved a 17-year-old boy who was charged with forcible oral sodomy on a 16-year-old girl. Both had been drinking, and her blood alcohol level was later found to be .34.

The defendant's attorney claims that the boy thought the girl did consent to oral sex. But, what would make a boy think that a girl could consent to anything when she was described as "in and out of consciousness"? And, how could a court of law not view this as a criminal act?

What would make a boy think that a girl could consent to anything when she was described as "in and out of consciousness"?

According to those involved with the case, this ruling was a result of a "court-created loophole." As Rebecca O'Connor, vice president of public policy for RAINN, said in a statement to the New York Times, "This sort of gray area [in state laws] can lead to unfortunate consequences."

There should be no gray area when it comes to consent and sexual assault, and our laws should reflect that. How, in 2016, can our laws be so off the mark?

There seems to be a serious lack of understanding among both young people and adults alike about what constitutes consent and healthy sexual behaviors. If a person is intoxicated or unconscious, they cannot give consent. If a person says no, at any time, no matter what, they are not giving consent. If a person says yes, then changes their mind and says no, they are not giving consent. This needs to be taught in schools, homes, workplaces  --  everywhere.

When one in three teens in our country is experiencing some form of dating abuse (physical, verbal, digital or sexual), we cannot ignore the issue. And, when we discover "court-created loopholes" around laws about sexual assault and rape, we cannot let them stand.

I hope that this completely unacceptable ruling in Oklahoma will jolt legislators across the country into taking a hard look at laws regarding rape, sexual assault, domestic violence and abuse. Too many people are not getting the justice they deserve, and too many perpetrators are not held accountable. And, I hope that we will continue to have honest and informed conversations about consent and healthy relationship behaviors with our children and within our communities so that we can prevent crimes like this from happening in the first place.

Until we all start taking assault and abuse seriously and do the work to eradicate these crimes through our words, actions and laws, we will never be a truly free and just society.

This post originally appeared on Medium.


Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.